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I work at a small startup and we are growing quite rapidly. We recently moved to a new, bigger location and got new desks and storage cabinets for our things. I'm not secretive and I have nothing to hide, but I don't like the idea of anyone having access to the things I keep in my drawers/cupboard, as I'm not the only one with keys to the office, and the complex is open 24/7. I occasionally keep quite high-value things in my cupboard - I work in the IT industry and buy and sell expensive components as a "hobby" and they are often left in my cupboard unattended if I go out for lunch, step out for a little while or work remotely.

Is it OK to ask for a lock to be put on the drawers? How can I approach the matter?

EDIT: I also keep prescription medication in my drawers. Does this affect my case?

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    @Fattie To expand on Fattie's comment, many offices have "hot-desking" where you are not assigned a desk, but sit at a desk available at any given time. How would you "store" your personal property in such a situation? Usually, it involves back-pack or rolling bag with everything that you need. – paulj Feb 6 at 15:38
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    How valuable? Locks only keep honest people out. – Mazura Feb 6 at 20:04
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    Your prescription medication makes a huge difference - you are entitled to having that protected, and it could be a liability if some fool took it instead of you – user90842 Feb 6 at 20:09
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    @paulj most places that have hot-desking that I know of have some lockers that are not part of the seating area. You might have a store-like storage or more like gym-like things. But this is how "personal item storage" is handled - you go to a locker and put your stuff in. The next day, you take them out. You can also store some stuff over the day, if needed. – VLAZ Feb 7 at 8:22
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    This is tangential, but: You indicate that you're buying and selling stuff as a hobby. I've known a number of cases of employees being fired for running a business out of their workplace. Your inventory may be small, but you're warehousing it at work for free and obviously doing business on company time. (I knew a lady whose office was un-useable because of the Mary Kay product she was storing at work.) If your boss doesn't know you're doing this, stop before he finds out. – B. Goddard Feb 7 at 11:41

10 Answers 10

58

The easiest way to handle this would be to bring your own lock. Depending on the cabinet's configuration that might not be practical.

Anyway... You asked:

I keep prescription medication in my drawers. Does this affect my case?

This makes your case 'open and shut' in my opinion.

Is it OK to ask for a lock to be put on the drawers? How can I approach the matter?

"I have prescription medications that need to be secured in my cabinet.
How can I get a lock for it? It can't be a shared key.
"

Asking for no reason whatsoever might raise some questions.
Asking to lock up medications is completely different... it is always acceptable.

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    The "It can't be a shared key" part is only found here, so keep in mind that in some places you actually receive a set of drawers with a built-in lock, but someone at the company will have a copy of the key. This is common practice, should the employee quit the company and leave the drawer locked, or if he looses his copy of the key. – Mefitico Feb 6 at 17:15
  • We have lockable cabinets, but there are only about a half dozen different key blanks (not sure if that's by design or if the locks are just poor quality with loose tolerances), so there's a good chance that your key is shared by many people. – Johnny Feb 6 at 22:46
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    @Mefitico: There is a big difference between any random colleague could have a similar key and the office manager has a spare key. In case of issue, in the latter case, there's only one other person to question. – Matthieu M. Feb 7 at 9:04
  • @MatthieuM. : Indeed, but usually the copy is given to someone responsible for infrastructure, not to the office manager. – Mefitico Feb 7 at 15:51
24

I usually just put a lock on myself unasked, I've never been told to take it off. It's my gear, my keys. If no lock can be put on I don't store valuables in my desk, If I must have them at work, I'll have them in a bag which I keep with me.

You should never rely on anyone else to protect your valuable property. Some businesses actually ban employees from keeping personal valuables at work and explicitly inform them that they're responsible for their property.

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    Seems like the best answer. Locks cost what, 3 bucks? No reason to try and convince your company to pay for it. The worst thing that will happen is they ask you to take the lock off. No big deal. – only_pro Feb 6 at 17:27
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    I have an office cabinet but it has no easy way to add a lock of my own unless I wanted to wrap some sort of lockable band all the way around it. Does your cabinet have locking provisions, or did you add locking mechanism? – Johnny Feb 6 at 22:48
  • @Johnny I'm an engineer so quite often the places I worked don't care if you customise your workspace (or maybe they do... I don't ask), sometimes I've just screwed a clasp on for a padlock, other times it's had some sort of fixture. If there are no options I keep my stuff in a lockable bag or briefcase. – Kilisi Feb 6 at 23:12
  • @only_pro just be sure to not skimp unjustly on locks. They are indeed cheap but the cheapest ones can be quite crap. I bought one and you could literally open it with any key you wanted. Also, anything reasonably narrow you can slid in the keyhole, like a screwdriver. Probably even your nail. Seriously, as long as you tried to turn the keyhole mechanism, it unlocked. You didn't need a key to even fit - the same key for the lock, turned upside down, and inserting only the tip of it could also unlock it. So, try the lock before you buy it! – VLAZ Feb 7 at 8:27
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If you need to justify it, the easiest sell is information security.

Chances are you deal with information that is sensitive to the company and you may need to deal with this information in paper form from time to time. Therefore, a lock on the storage cabinet is a requirement, as you have a responsibility to keep this information safe and make sure only the relevant people can get access to these documents, with the consequences of not being able to fulfill those responsibilities usually ranging from dire to business-ending.

This is something your superiors should be able to easily understand and make some sort of provisions for.

However in the case of your prescription medicine, it might be easier to simply use a padlockable bag and a travel lock. That way it is always on you and should be secure. Sure, the bag itself could be stolen, but taking an entire bag is very obvious and very obviously malicious too. That may be only a minor obstacle for a serious thief, but if your company has CCTV, it's not going to be something the thief can hide from that by merely angling their body. Not worth it for a few prescription pills.

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I don't think it's unreasonable to ask for a lock. At both my current and previous employer, employees were given locks for their filing cabinets and drawers and the facilities management team had copies or master keys should they need to be accessed in the employee's absence.

However, if you aren't provided a lock, I think you'll want to come up with a business justification. It's not your company's responsibility to ensure the security of your personal belongings. I would expect that you'd be told to leave them at home. Valid concerns would be to secure a company laptop if you are unable to bring it home, or proprietary documents outside of working hours. But if there are already mechanisms in place to secure these, then it may not be a justifiable business cost to provide additional locks.

2

You should be able to ask for a place to lock your personal items when your desk area is unattended. This could include items you have to commute with, as well as times that you need throughout the day.

You could also ask for a way to secure the company owned items, but they could decide that the level of security they are providing is adequate for the risk to their items.

Where you might have a problem is when you ask for a place to lock your stuff when it is not needed for the job, or the commute, or what the common person would carry. Those items you are trying to sell fall into that category.

Many employers would state that your are responsible for safeguarding your items, and they aren't responsible for items left unattended - even if they are in a locked cabinet.

You could provide your own lock, but that doesn't turn their cabinet into your property. They might break your lock if they have a business need to get into the cabinet and you aren't around to unlock it.

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You don't even have to justify yourself in this instance. A locking drawer is standard office equipment I believe. This is offset by the fact that office drawers are usually easy to break into, but that's another matter.

Yes, you can ask for locking drawers. If asked why (unlikely), just say that you feel more confident about leaving company property and personal items when away - exactly what you said here. Don't mention the buying and selling though, that might look like you're doing other business while on the clock.

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Generally speaking, you do not want to bring personal items into the discussion, although prescription meds are probably an exception to that rule. If possible, always make it about the COMPANY'S security, not yours as an individual. You'll usually get a much better response from management when you're trying to protect the company's assets rather than your own.

Given your IT role, it should be an easy sale as you typically have access to expensive hardware and software that needs to be secured. Be prepared to stress the facts that:

  • access to these items should be restricted to as few people as possible
  • access to these items should remain at your desk for ease of use

If you can't make the second argument, it's possible that management would instead suggest a locked cabinet elsewhere. If so, THAT would be a good time to bring up the medication, if you haven't already.

Note: Keep in mind that someone else, usually in either facilities or management, should have access to the desk as a backup. Also, the cheap locks in desks & drawers are fairly easy to remove with the proper tools, so it's no real guarantee of security for anything expensive.

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Talk to your manager about this.

However, if the items are your own personal property, then it seems likely that your company won't really want to pay to protect your gear.

You might want to explore options of purchasing your own storage cabinet, or just leaving those items in your car (if you drive to work).

  • Do you think I can then, in this case, ask to put a lock on myself? – Rene Feb 6 at 11:44
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    That depends on the cabinet you have. If putting a lock on there involves damaging the cabinet in some way, then you're damaging company property. – Snow Feb 6 at 11:45
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Just the fact that you keep prescription medication in your drawers is sufficient to prevent (well, hinder) anyone getting to them.

It is sometimes the case, for a multitude of reasons, that people have to bring children to work just for 5 minutes and preventing them getting to your meds is good practice.

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Things may be different in various countries, regions, etc., but the norm that I have been exposed to is that every employee has a place to secure their personal effects.

How many employees carry a purse, or a phone or their lunch or snack or something that they will not carry with them 100% of the day? Employees need a secure place to put things. There are always threats to personal effect security in the workplace.

Where I work, items like cell phones, pen drives, smart watches and cameras are not allowed into a secure facility, so lockers are installed outside the main entrances, for employees and visitors to use.

Having said that, keeping hobby items or items associated with another job at your workplace is not a good idea. This is an activity you should find a way to avoid.

I suggest that you talk with your supervisor and if that fails, HR, and make them aware of your perceived need to keep personal effects, including medicine you need at work, safe. Ask that they make an accommodation to handle this need for you, if they cannot provide a more general solution for employees.

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    This doesn't appear to be providing an actionable answeer to the question, of how to approach asking for such a secure storage location. – doppelgreener Feb 6 at 17:49

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